People over 50 years of age who are healthy, active, sociable, and well off face the risk of harmful drinking than their less successful peers, revealed a new study. Researchers have warned that harmful drinking is a 'middle class phenomenon' which may be a hidden health and social problem in otherwise successful older people. The findings of the study suggested that the risk of harmful drinking peaked for men in their early 60s and then gradually tailed off, whereas for women risky drinking fell in tandem with age.
The study findings are based on more than 9000 responses. The researchers said, "These patterns suggest that the current group of over 50s may be carrying on levels of higher consumption developed in their younger years, in later life." Income was associated with a higher risk among women, while smoking, higher educational attainment, and good health were all linked to heightened risk in both the sexes.
The risk of harmful drinking was more likely among men living on their own, including those who were separated or divorced. Also, it was more common among men of white ethnicity. Caring responsibilities was found to lower the probability of being at higher risk among women, but religious belief did not-for either sex. Employment status did not seem to be a significant factor, but women who had retired were more likely to be at higher risk of harmful drinking.
The researchers said, "The problem of harmful drinking among people aged 50 or over in England as a middle class phenomenon and people in better health, higher income, with higher educational attainment and socially more active are more likely to drink at harmful levels. Our findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life was more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a successful aging process."
The findings appear online in BMJ Open